Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mary, Mother of God


Luke 2:16-21

In the Solemnity of the Mary, Mother of God, we look back at the past year, recognizing that times we have faith and we look at the future with a firmer resolve to do better.  We implore the blessed Mother and look at the future with renewed hearts.

I shall dwell for this year on "blessings", "May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord uncover his face to you and give you peace." (Numbers 6:22-27)

A blessing is a very consoling word.  A Christmas song even reveals it, "Count your blessings instead of sheep."

Another business author even stresses, "You have more than what you think you have."  Those are blessings!

Focus on blessings and we shall encounter face-to-face the author of blessings - the almighty God!

Three resolutions that go with blessings - thankfulness, humility, and commitment to salvation.

For every gift bestowed upon us, bless the Lord; be thankful. Always be thankful.

For the approval of favor, "I give you my blessings", our reaction is one of humility.

For causing the overall well-being of things, recall Jesus himself who is our greatest gift, our response is a deeper commitment to the work of salvation.

Contemplate on Mary, the vessel of all blessings.  She pondered all these things in her heart.  We can ponder as well and start moving to a better life as Christians!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas day

New world in Christ

John 1:1-18

It's a beautiful Christmas day and the message of the Lord is still unfolding.

The Messiah, the King, is now with us as he was before. He is at present consoling His people.  

I remember a film about Jesus when he was 12 years old and the Romans were persecuting the Jews, he witnessed a man crying out, "When o Lord will you come to save us?"  The man didn't know the Messiah was already in their midst.

Remember John the Baptist and his calling to prepare the way of the Lord.  It is not because he wants to be the messenger, but God has John at the palm of His hand to prepare for His coming, to make the way spotless and worthy for the King to enter.  John's vocation may also be our vocation to prepare the way of the Lord for others.

Know the entire salvation history of God fulfilling a promise that would end sin and usher in a new world.  Just as John had a great part in it, we too can join the bandwagon of God's plan of salvation by preparing the way for Jesus in our lives.  And to us who will accept him, we are privileged to called his children and family.

Through our daily experiences we are witnesses of God's saving love.  To us who are witnesses of the blessings of the Lord each day, we are alive in Christ!

Let us continue taking up this task to live in the new world God has for us where real life is celebrated and Jesus is at the center of our lives!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas midnight

Only through the poor man's heart

Luke 2:1-14

Merry Christmas!

In this very Christmas, Isaiah reiterates the role of the Son of David.  God promised David that his kingdom will not end and that His Son will correct all errors and make us all happy!

Isaiah added in the reading this night, "His name is Wonder Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."  All these titles attributed to Jesus, the Son of David, shall be used to put an end to sin and cause our salvation.

We are called to give witness to these titles of Jesus so he will be born in us.

As a Wonder Counselor, our role now becomes to help others, enlighten their minds, and lead them to the right track.

As Mighty God, He calls us to be single-hearted and love, serve, and adore Him and Him alone!

As Eternal Father, He calls us rely fully on Him as we do our fathers, with the assurance of a true father!

And as Prince of Peace, he calls to a life in total union with one another and with Him, causing this entire earth to live in peace and plenty.

But before we can accept all these, let us hearts be like the hearts of the shepherds, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph.

Only through the heart of a poor man can we be born.  Then we would fully realize that Christmas is not just about the birth of Jesus.  It also marks our birth in God!

Monday, December 23, 2013

24 December

God and us

Luke 1:67-79

As we come closest to the birthday of the Lord, events are challenging to be more than who we think we are and establish our close link with the Lord.

The reading is a continuation of yesterday's gospel.  But it establishes one thing - it revealed the power and the fulfillment of the promise of God.

In the Book of Samuel, it is God who favored David and made him king.  God's triumphant kingship is manifested in him.  God also renewed his promise that through his son, his kingdom will last forever.

In the gospel, the Benedictus revealed God fulfilling his promise that the Messiah would be born and his son John would prepare the way for him.

John's vocation "to prepare the way of the Lord" is God's will - that the messenger would preach the gospel of forgiveness.  He would do this until the great meeting between him and Jesus in the baptism at the river Jordan.

Who are we?  What is our role in this world?  If we know the height and depth of the grandeur of God, then we should also change our priorities and start serving him.  In this way, we share in John's vocation "to prepare the way of the Lord."  Let us prepare the way of the Lord to our children, so that they would prepare the way of the Lord to their children s children by preaching and living out the message of forgiveness.  Then will the Lord be upon us to bless us always!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

23 December, Day 8

"Prepare the way of the Lord!"

Luke 1:57-66

We may have two days to go in our preparations for Christmas, but let us do everything we can to nourish what was conceived in us until we can bring Jesus safely into the world.

Our preparations point out to John the Baptist, the one who will prepare the way of the Lord. 

Let us reflect on the very office of John, to be a messenger or a precursor.

Who exactly is John and what is his mission?  John the Baptist may not have known Jesus, but even in the womb, he already leaped for joy.  Still even before he was conceived he would prepare the way of the Lord.

His office as a messenger means to make smooth the path because the One passing by is higher than we can all imagine.  What are we actually thinking when we were raising children?  What are we actually doing when we decided to become priests or religious?  What are we thinking when we chose what course to take?  Just to survive on our own or to prepare this world for others?  The world may be in so much mess, but let us not lose hope.  Remain faithful to the Lord.

John preached a gospel of forgiveness.  But it is not mere outward forgiveness.  He reprimanded the pharisees for taking a short cut to forgiveness.  Let our forgiveness be authentic.  For the One coming into the world knows and will expose the hearts of many.

John baptized with water;  but we shall all be initiated in Jesus who will purify us and make our offerings definitely pleasing to the Lord and become true worshipers of the Lord.

Do we know who we are and what we are to do this Christmas?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

4th Sunday of Advent, A


Matthew 1:18-24

This 4th week of Advent marks the completion of lighting of the 4 candles signifying the completeness of the light that shines the world; that the whole world is lit on Christmas day - that light is Jesus himself.

Today, we hear the name, "Emmanuel", which means "God-with-us."  Our hope and prayer is for us to experience the overwhelming presence of God not only on Christmas but everyday of our lives.

God revealed himself in the Old Testament as One who "hears the cry of the poor" (Ps 34).  He is God because he will free Israel from slavery of Egypt and will guide them into the promised land.

His name is "Yahweh" which means, "I am who am." (Ex 3:13-15) The two-fold meaning of eternal presence and the ability to save us is the constant theme of his very Godhead.

His promise is fulfilled in his Son Jesus who frees us from sin and leads us back to the Father.  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor... " (Lk 4:18-19)

And now, His presence is felt and experienced in his Church, the body of Christ.  The Church becomes the living sign of the saving presence of God.

Friday, December 20, 2013

21 December, Day 6

True happiness

Luke 1:39-45

The sixth day opens with Mary going in haste to assist her cousin Elizabeth who was with child.  This meeting turned out to be a joyous occasion not only for Mary and Elizabeth, but for the babies in their wombs, for the Redeemer and the redeemed.

This joy of union, also reflected in the Song of Songs, is what God wants of us in our relationship with Him.

Conceiving Jesus entails us to relish this joy that no money can buy or no earthly thing can give.  Only God can supply it for us.

Another word for that joy is "blessed."

We are definitely moving for exterior happiness to interior; and for me the, the words of the Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount gives us that light to being blessed even in the midst of sufferings and tribulations - simply because God is with us.

Learn to value the beatitudes:

1. they teach us the rightful place of this world's goods - meek and humble, being peacemakers
2. they teach us to value the things of heaven - justice and righteousness and being merciful
3. they teach us the real source of happiness is God alone - being comforted even in sorrow, purity of heart.

Grant that we may continue to choose God rather that this world's goods so that our happiness would be complete.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

20 December, Day 5

Uniting heaven and earth

Luke 1:26-38

This is the center of the immediate preparation for Christmas - the exact moment Jesus is conceived not only in Mary but in all of us; that solemn moment where heaven and earth meet, and the Word now becomes flesh and makes his dwelling in us.

I would also liken this to the exact moment of conception - not when a woman discovers that she's pregnant. It's even prior to that; and no one except God alone knows that exact time and space conception begins.  And the only way anti-life advocates can succeed is either way: when artificial means can hinder the egg from meeting the sperm, or when the united conceived human being is being aborted, "brutally killed" so to speak.

The union between heaven and earth is what we aspire.  And for those who have fallen out of faith, the only thing that matter is earth, though there are no signs of heaven anywhere except in the figments of their imagination.

But it is important to view heaven according only to God who made heaven and earth, both seen and unseen.

Thus, in order to appreciate the indwelling of Jesus, it is important that we rid ourselves of all negativities and preconceived notions and allow God to touch us and mold our thoughts and judgments.  "From then on I want to see the Church from from point of view of God and not how I view it."  Let this be our main theme.

How do we view this union between heaven and earth, between our own world and God's world?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us three things regarding the "word made flesh":

First, the Word became flesh "in order to save us by reconciling us with God".  Such is the intention of God and thus, He made it His initiative to work out the process of salvation.  The second reason has it - "so that thus, we might know God's love."

The third reason for the Word to become flesh "is to be our model of holiness."  The model for living is not how good we are in this world, but how Jesus lived among us.

The fourth reason for us to be "partakers of the divine nature."   There is no reason for us to remain in a worldly state.  Let us also strive to seek for the things of heaven, not of earth.  Finally, let us allow heaven to envelop earth and truly make it God's own world.

By now, we should have realized in the level of the heart that it is only Jesus who causes the union of heaven and earth.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

19 December. Day 4

Unwavering faith in God

Luke 1:5-25

The story of Christmas this day places us in the context of a humanly impossible situation - the barrenness and advanced age of Elizabeth.  But nothing is impossible with God; Elizabeth conceived.

But this story is also about the lack of faith of Zechariah.  He became mute because he was an unwilling witness of the action of the living God.

Jesus is being conceived in us.  But when was the last time we truly believed?  Or have we become mute because we have compromised our faith for trivial matters like wealth, fame, and popularity?

The issue here is our faith; even that is an important factor in the coming of Christmas.  A lively faith brings life to all; a barren faith leads us to death.

Let us take time to nourish this faith ... let us say slowly and convincingly, "I believe ... " though it may seemingly be impossible, let us still believe and solemnly confess with unwavering faith ...

"that God is God.  He exists and He wishes to make himself known to generations ... yes, there is a God...."

"And His name is 'Yahweh'" which means "I am who am", a manifestation of an eternal presence and a God who helps us always "I will be here for you and you alone."

Let us take a moment to relish these words so next time, we would know that our thoughts are God's thought; our words are God's words; and our actions are God's actions... all for the salvation of the world and for His glory.  Then we may see how life becomes fruitful for a person who believes.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

18 December, Day 3

God's home

Matthew 1:18-24 

After becoming familiar with the genealogy of Jesus, the work of salvation still cannot be possible unless Joseph agrees to take Mary into his home and give Jesus a name which comes from him.

Joseph is a reflection of the "God-of-integrity."  Remember the words of Jeremiah, the lost children of Israel shall not only recall their freedom from Egypt, they shall recall being gathered by God into his home.

At this point, are we really willing to allow Jesus into our home and give him a name?  We recall the many instances where families deny serving Jesus because of too much preoccupation with the world's affairs, or simply those families living together without the receiving the sacrament of marriage.

What makes home?  There are three things: the physical home, the rule of the head, and the warmth and security of home.

We begin our journey with God if we allow ourselves to be part of His kingdom and kingship. The Church is the family of God and every family is a domestic Church.

Second, we should allow God to be the head of the household.  "God-of-intergrity", we need to insure every member is living in the integrity of God.

Finally, the warmth and security of home is made possible only by the strength and grace of God that blesses the family.

Allow God to bless the family and true Christmas will come!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Simbang gabi, day 2

Jesus and God's fatherhood

Matthew 1:1-17

We begin the more immediate preparation for Christmas with the genealogy of Jesus.

Jesus' ancestry is a generation of fathers starting with the patriarch Abraham whom God has called to follow him.  Jesus is the sum total of all fathers; all father should have their roots in God the father himself.

Christmas is to root ourselves in the fatherhood of God, to consecrate our own fathers, and to be present day fathers to our children.

Every name mentioned in the gospel reflects the fatherhood of God.  And what does He exact from his children? Obedience.  Once we become disobedient, the line of fatherhood is cut off.

God's fatherhood is reflected in the line of Kings.  Every father's credibility is rooted in God; he leads with justice and mercy.  Every father is also a prophet, a living witness of God's fatherhood.  And every father reflects the priesthood of God to lead his children back to Him.

We are aware of the woundedness of fathers today.  As every father is distanced from his children because his main concern is the financial future of his family, let him be reminded that his primary role is the role of a just a merciful king, providing everything, and not not financial strength to his children.

As every father is endangered by vices and a lack of spirituality, let him be reminded that he is to be the spiritual strength of his family by being a worthy priest of God.

As every father is in danger of immorality is lack of integrity, he is to be a role model of integrity to his children, providing them with a legacy that no money can buy by being a prophet of God.

Jesus is the sum total of all these.  Cling on to Jesus and we shall become good fathers.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Simbang Gabi, day 1 in the Philippines

Are you ready to receive Christ?

John 5, 33 - 36

In the Philippines, our longing for Christmas starts this very day as we are excited to go to the Misa de Gallo so very early in the morning.  This is a sure sign that the Christmas spirit is well in us.

The readings also reflect a more intense preparation for Christmas with St. John the Baptist as a model.  Jesus commended John for being a model; thus, we are asked to do the same.

How do we actually prepare for Christ?

First, check on every external observance of Christmas.  Is there a change in the way we conduct our lives; on how we live out the ideals of Christian faith?  Grant that we may reflect Jesus.

Second, check on our hearts.  Are they free from profanation as was mentioned in the first reading?  Are our hearts ready for Christ?  Are we ready to love as he loves?

Third, check on the offerings of our lives.  They should be like water flowing from Jesus to us to our neighbors who badly need them.  Our offerings should reflect Jesus' offering in total humility just to grant us salvation.

Christmas is just around the corner.  But as men and women of faith, we know Christmas is already here within us and around us.  With Christ in us, celebrate Christmas!

Simbang gabi, day 1

Choose God

Matthew 21:23-27

The first day of Simbang Gabi brings to a fruitful closure the long-term preparations for Advent and opens us to a more immediate encounter with the birthday celebrant, Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament describes the Messiah as "the star of Jacob ... a scepter arises from Israel." (Numbers 24, 17).

In the New Testament, the Jews question Jesus' authority, "By whose power do you do these things?" 

By this time we should really be considering God's authority to rule over us.  In a time when we claim we are free to do everything we want, even not to follow God, could we start using our freedom once and for all and choose God?

Jesus' authority frees us from all evils, even the evils in ourselves.

Jesus' authority is just, caring and compassionate, most specially to the poor and lowly.  If we follow God, myriads of the poor will be helped.

Jesus' authority leads us to true happiness.  If we just remain in our own concept of happiness, would the world experience true heaven on earth?

Choose God in Jesus to rule over us; let's not choose ourselves over God.

3rd Sunday of Advent, A

Time to change!

Matthew 11:2-11

In this third Sunday of Advent, called the Gaudete Sunday, we are challenged to shift from "old" to "new".  "It's time to clean the room"; to remove the clutters, to give it a fresh look, to open the windows and the let the fresh air come in.

History shifts from the promises of old till its realization in Jesus through whom "the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor."  There are three shifts I would propose in our preparations for Christmas:

First, Jesus really brings sweeping changes in our lives more that we can change on our own.  Shift from self to Jesus.

Second, the more others can change, the more change will be felt.  Shift from self to others.

Third, the change can be as beautiful as heaven itself.  If God truly dwells in our hearts, then it is heaven.  This is Christmas!  Shift from earth to heaven.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

2nd Sunday of Advent, A


Matthew 3:1-12

The second week of Advent challenges us to be men and women of integrity like St. John the Baptist.

As the dictionary defines it, a man or woman of integrity is one who is honest and fair. St. John was point blank honest, a sure sign that he was faithful to the teachings of God.

Integrity is also defined as "a state of wholeness."  God, being whole and entire, wants us to be complete, whole, and not unbalanced.  St. John did not compromise his completeness unlike the pharisees who compromised their faith.

Most of all, men and women of integrity focus their entire lives on following Jesus and showing others the path to Jesus.  John sacrificed everything to lead people to Jesus.  The parents' legacy is non other than this - to bring their children closer to Jesus each day.

Follow the same path is receive the Lord completely this Christmas!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

1st Sunday of Advent, A

Preparations for Christmas
Matthew 24:37-44 

The first week of Advent opens with a bang, "The mountain of the Temple of the Lord, shall tower above the mountains and be lifted higher than the hills." (Isaiah 2:1)

What is going to happen is higher than our usual preparations for Christmas.  It is even higher than our lives. I would like to dwell on the usual preparations we are doing this Christmas and transcend on them since I will dwell on what is higher than all our expectations:

1. Noche Buena - represents our capacity to place food on the table.  Christmas event is definitely higher than our need for bonuses. It will change our lives forever.  From a people, doomed for punishment, we now are geared toward salvation.  Let us celebrate for our salvation is near at hand.

2. Christmas gifts - represent our capacity to give gifts first to our family members, then to the poor.  Give love on Christmas day.  But there is one who definitely gave more of himself.  May the children be spared from equating Christmas with materialism and consumerism.  Think of the poor this Christmas.  Because the poor have a capacity to give.  Jesus was poor.  But Jesus is our gift above all other gifts.  Give Jesus as a gift to the children, not the pomp or luxury of modern Christmas gifts.  Focus on Jesus.

3. Holiday - usually, no work brings more beer on the table, Karaoke, and merry making.  But the gospel instructs us to stay awake and as early as now, to prepare our future life with the Lord when the Lord will hold us by the hand and we allow ourselves to be guided, together with that of our families; towards a renewed Church.  Don't celebrate simply because it is a holiday.  Celebrate because from now on, we shall be obedient to God.

So these three things we should consider as our very preparation for Christmas - our salvation, our lives of self-giving like Jesus, and our total obedience to God.